Bel-Air Drive-In

3101 S. Cicero Avenue,
Cicero, IL 60804

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MichaelKilgore on August 18, 2021 at 3:58 pm

As mentioned above, plans for the Bel-Air included a (single?) 135 by 90-foot screen, and the drive-in opened showing a single program. Less than two months later, the Bel-Air was advertising shows on its North and South screens. Considering its layout, with a double-sided screen in the middle of the lot, I’d guess that’s what it looked like when it opened, and the first few chilly spring weeks only had movies on one side. Here’s the first double-screen ad:

20 Apr 1956, Fri Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois)

The Bel-Air added its third screen in 1979, switching its newspaper ad from two programs to three on June 15.

MichaelKilgore on January 10, 2021 at 1:09 am

According the Berwyn IL newspaper The Life, the Bel-Air’s final movies were shown on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2000.

One screen had “Backstage” followed by “Highlander: Endgame.” Another had “Original Kings of Comedy” then “Bless the Child.” The last double-header started with “Turn It Up,” and the Bel-Air’s final movie, based on scheduled start time, was “The Cell.”

davidcoppock on November 30, 2020 at 5:35 am

Opened on 2/3/1956 with “Guys and dolls” and “The Lone Ranger”.

MichaelKilgore on April 19, 2020 at 1:04 pm

As of April 1964, the Bel-Air was owned by Raymond J. Marks and Martin G. Rosenfeld, operating as M & R Amusement Companies, per a Boxoffice story about their acquisition of the Skyhi and Dundale drive-ins. A July 1966 note about plans for the Wheeling Twin added Richard Rosenfield to the previous two names. By June 1978, the company spokesman was Louis Marks.

Boxoffice, April 30, 1979: “In announcing that a third screen will add to the Bel-Air activity June 8, Louis Marks of M & R Amusement Co. said, “With the good product coming along for the summer, there should be enough to support three screens in each of our properties.” M & R had some months ago had third screens added to the Twin and Double outdoor theatres.”

Boxoffice, June 9, 1980: “Owners of Chicago’s main-line hardtop theaters "were not enthusiastic about having live pigs in their theaters,” so Avco Embassy pictures staged what is believed to be the first major world premiere in a drive-in May 30, taking over the Bel-Air Drive-In to launch its release of ‘Hog Wild.’"

MichaelKilgore on July 22, 2019 at 10:39 pm

On March 14, 1956, Motion Picture Exhibitor reported, “An unfortunate situation occurred at the opening night of the new million-dollar Bel-Air Drive-In in suburban Cicero. Temperatures in the high 50’s had melted the snow and softened the ground in the huge parking area to such an extent that many of the cars sank to their hubs. Tractors were used to pull them out. Further showings at the theatre were postponed until the ground hardens. Bel-Air was built and is operated by Jerome and Raymond Marks, Martin Rosenfield,” (and the rest, if any, was cut off)

MichaelKilgore on May 27, 2019 at 2:48 pm

The March 24, 1956 Motion Picture Herald wrote in the Chicago section, “The Bel-Air, which made its debut as the only outdoor theatre with walk-in seats, plans to show only ‘the finest attractions’ each week, plus cartoons for children. Bottle warmers are provided for babies. Children under 12 are admitted free at all times, and youngsters have free playgrounds. There will be concentrated promotion for family attendance.”

Trolleyguy on May 23, 2019 at 10:38 am

A former quarry makes sense. Years ago, once the aggregate had been removed from the quarries, they became dump sites for garbage and worse.

MichaelKilgore on May 21, 2019 at 9:58 pm

Verification of that story about what came before the Bel-Air. From the June 11, 1955 Motion Picture Herald:

Plans are under way for a new $750,000 drive-in theatre in the Chicago area, it was announced by M & R Theatres. A 25-year lease for the old Quarry site had been obtained. The drive-in is to be called the Bel-Air and that it will have a capacity of 2,500 cars. “Walk-in seats” will be a feature. CinemaScope, VistaVision and wide screen pictures will be projected, with the latest modern equipment, according to Harry Sears, on a 135 by 90-foot screen which he says will be the largest in the country.

Trolleyguy on September 8, 2017 at 10:04 am

I used to go there as well. I heard the same stories about the landfill or scrapyard.

JAYJay on September 6, 2017 at 1:56 pm

I went there a few times back in the early 1960s I was always told that it was built on an old landfill / garbage dump. Can anyone verify this ?

rivest266 on November 11, 2016 at 3:45 am

This opened as the World’s largest drive-in with the World’s largest screen on March 2nd, 1956. The grand opening ad can be found in the photo section.

Kenmore on August 25, 2016 at 2:17 pm

The Admiral Twin in Tulsa is one. It was featured in the film “The Outsiders” although that particular screen burned down in 2009. A metal one replaced it and the drive in is still open today.

davidcoppock on August 25, 2016 at 4:47 am

“Where are the other drive-ins with two-sided screens(i didn’t know there was such a thing!)?”

Savage on August 1, 2016 at 4:12 pm

This was a drive in I frequently went to every summer as a kid during the 1980s! The Bel Air had the worst food (hot foil bagged burritos,dry hamburgers & hot dogs).. But ,they had a great play ground on one of the sides of the double sided screen!..I also remember the “adult screen” and how the opposite side faced the side of the double sided screen … But,me and some other kids would sometimes sneak over there and laugh at the adults beep their horns at a naked girl on screen!…Ah memories!

Kenmore on September 28, 2015 at 12:03 pm

The Admiral Twin in Tulsa, which is still operating also has a double-sided screen.

Cliff Carson
Cliff Carson on July 21, 2015 at 3:24 am

Looks like a really romantic Drive In Theatre. A sad shame the community allowed it to die

VintageBob on July 12, 2015 at 8:31 pm

I’m hoping someone here can help me find some info. I’m trying to remember a particular showing here at the Bel Air around 1980 or 1981. They had an all-night movie line up of horror movies. There were 5 or 6 playing that evening, back to back. Among them were “The Rats Are Coming, the Werewolves Are Here” and I believe “The Hills Have Eyes” and maybe a Dr. Phibes or Count Yorga movie, and a few others. I’ve been scouring the Chicago Tribune archives, but that is SLOW going. Any idea where or how I can narrow this search down? Movie release dates won’t help since they were all older movies playing.

elkayo56 on November 16, 2014 at 11:15 am

I saw 1963’s Cleopatra and El Cid there. When I was young I would stand on the overpass and watch movies without sound. Sorry to see it go.

Marquita on March 27, 2014 at 11:32 pm

I use to go here all. The time when I was a kid was sad when the close it I showed my daughter this place an she wanted to go she never been to a drive-in so I’m going to find one an take her so she can experience some of the things I did when I was a kid really wish they would have kept it open this is something u can njoy with your kids n the summer

psycmeistr on August 17, 2012 at 11:28 pm

My first experience at the Bel Air drive in was in 1966. My parents bought their first and only brand new car— a 1966 Ford Country Sedan station wagon. All us kids piled in the wagon and went to the Bel Air- I still remember the movies: Munsters Go Home, and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken… :o)

rivest266 on June 19, 2012 at 7:27 pm

This may has been opened in 1956. The 1951 aerial shows empty land.

TLSLOEWS on July 16, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Google map shows the remains of this Loews-Cineplex Bel-Air Drive-in.

MKuecker on April 21, 2008 at 8:14 pm

The Bel-Air was great. You never could get the frequency on the radio, so you had to use the speakers. The last film we saw at The Bel-Air was Pet Cemetary. I always remember that at about 10:15 they’d interrupt you with the annoucement that the consession stand is closing in 15 minutes, and that means the restrooms will be closed too. One young man was cute one night and said “So if you need to use the restroom, go now or forever hold your pees”
So, Wal-Mart eh? Not a place I would ever shop, not even for the $4 prescriptions.